The first phase of the renovation of Camp Mokitana – the old Camp Fire Girls camp located in River Bend (formerly Goethe) Park – will be celebrated when the camp’s amphitheater is dedicated in memory of Rotarian Chandler Copps on Sept. 15 at 10 a.m.
The renovation is the result of the hard work of the Sacramento area’s local Rotary clubs. Last year, Rotary District 5180 entered into a five year partnership with SaveMart Supermarkets for the purpose of raising funds to restore Camp Mokitana in Rancho Cordova.
The camp site is significant and holds great sentimental importance to generations of Sacramento area children – now adults – who attended summer Camp Fire camps at Camp Mokitana for well over a half century. Camp Fire was particularly strong in Sacramento from the 1910s up until the early 2000s, serving thousands of children and making many resources available to the community. In fact, in the early 20th century, Camp Fire Girls partnered with its “brother” organization, the Boy Scouts of America – as both organizations were founded in 1910. For example, scouting groups leased the property from Camp Fire for their outdoor programs from time to time.
It was at Camp Mokitana that children discovered “Charley” – the caterpillar who can only eat Dutchman’s Pipevine, who later spins a chrysalis (complete with hold-fasts) to later emerge as the Dutchman’s Pipevine Butterfly. Camp Mokitana is Charley’s habitat, and young people learned how threatening the habitat could threaten the life of the butterflies. Kids learned the importance of conservation. Many made “We camp with Charley!” their rallying cry.
Camp Mokitana campers made their first friendship bracelets, honed their archery skills, learned outdoor skills, hiked together…and made new friends as they ate their first s’mores and sang camp songs around the bonfire in the old amphitheater.
The Camp Fire Girls became co-educational in 1974, becoming Camp Fire Boys and Girls. During the 1990s, the council was headquartered in East Sacramento. A decline in membership and lack of community funding for Camp Fire programs eventually led to the sale of the Sacramento-Sierra Council’s other camp, Camp Minaluta, in 2004. Eventually the Sacramento-Sierra Camp Fire USA Council closed in 2008, ending nearly a century of service to the Sacramento region.
As the council declined, Camp Mokitana fell into a state of disrepair. Rattlesnakes were no longer the only hazard. Trails to the American River were overgrown, the block house was in shambles, the Climbing Trees needed a safety check and the camp sites all needed repair. A valuable resource for children’s education was lost to the community.
It is, in some ways, appropriate that the organization whose motto is “Service Above Self” – Rotary – would come to the rescue of a facility of an organization whose slogan was “Give Service” – the Camp Fire Girls. Rotary is a worldwide organization of more than 1.2 million business, professional, and community leaders. Members of Rotary clubs, known as Rotarians, provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the world. To restore Camp Mokitana to serve the community made sense to one local Rotarian in particular.
Chandler Copps, the founding president of the Rotary Club of Rancho Murietta, saw the need to restore this outdoor resource to the children of the community. He spearheaded
the effort to persuade members of Rotary’s District 5180 to support this effort. Funds would need to be raised, he realized, and strategic partnerships made with local authorities and businesses. Copps also reached out to SaveMart Supermarkets, which in turn stepped up to help.
A golf tournament held last October successfully raised over $57,000 for the restoration project. This money has helped the first phase of the restoration to near completion.
Phase 1 of the project includes the renovation of the camp’s parking area, the path leading to the river, and the amphitheater. When completed, Camp Mokitana will again be useable by scout groups, church groups, Boys and Girls Clubs, and other youth groups as a camping facility in a rural area within an urban setting. The property is now owned by Sacramento County.
Chandler Copps, a respected Rotarian and member of the Paul Harris Society, passed away in early 2011.
“Chandler was an outstanding Rotarian who was responsible for getting us involved with SaveMart and the partnership that made this project a reality,” said Clarence Parkins, Rotarian and past district governor. “The amphitheater will henceforth be known as the Chandler Copps Amphitheater in his memory.”
Members of Rotary District 5180 will continue to hold future work days at Camp Mokitana as their work to renew the facility continues. They will also host the 2011 SaveMart/Governor’s Cup Golf Tournament at the Rancho Murieta Country Club on Sept. 23. Funds from the tournament will help Rotary to continue to raise the funds necessary to rebuild this camping facility for the community. To purchase tickets, make a donation or for more information, visit http://tinyurl.com/rotarytournament.